By a Newsnet reporter
A former Labour MSP who was once accused of making false claims relating to the closure of a local hospital and also faced calls to step down from a Holyrood committee after allegedly breaching data protection laws, has been chosen as the party’s Westminster candidate in Falkirk.
Karen Whitefield has emerged as the surprise replacement for disgraced local MP Eric Joyce who was expelled by Labour after being convicted of assault. Whitefield came out on top of an all female shortlist which included two other candidates.
Ms Whitefield is the former Labour MSP for Airdrie and Shotts who lost out to SNP candidate Alex Neil in the 2011 Scottish election which saw the SNP achieve an historic majority.
Controversy surrounded her campaign when she claimed to have opposed her party’s plans to close the Accident and Emergency unit at the local Monklands hospital in North Lanarkshire.
However it later emerged that on two separate occasions Ms Whitefield had failed to vote against the closure, once failing to even turn up, whilst in another the Labour MSP voted against a motion calling for her party to re-examine the planned closure.
The former Labour MSP was accused of making similar false allegations when, during the same campaign, she claimed that the local Monkland’s hospital had received no investment in four years and had “fewer beds … fewer nurses … and fewer staff” as a result.
Her claims were shot down when the health board listed millions of pounds of investment it had made at the hospital and detailed increases in the number of patients treated and staff employed.
In another controversial incident, Whitefield came under pressure to resign from her role as shadow minister for Children and Early Years after it emerged she had sent letters to local primary seven children after receiving personal details that had been obtained from school databases.
The announcement of her selection to replace Eric Joyce as Labour’s Westminster candidate in Falkirk follows months of delay after allegations of vote rigging caused the original selection process to be scrapped.
The Labour party were involved in a bitter row with the Unite union after allegations were made that people had been recruited as Labour party members without their knowledge. An investigation was carried out by Labour and the union was cleared of any wrongdoing, however the party has refused to publish the findings of the inquiry.
The scandal spilled over into the Grangemouth Oil Refinery which resulted in a dispute between the union and owners Inoes, which almost led to the plant’s closure.
Meanwhile, Police Scotland is continuing to look into separate allegations against Unite concerning alleged intimidation of senior members of the Ineos staff.
The investigation involves so-called leverage protests held outside the homes of management at the refinery.